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Council / Planners turn down application for Toft net washing plant

Local residents are delighted with the outcome of the planning process according to spokesman John Laurenson (centre). Photo: Hans J Marter/Shetland News

PLANS to build a controversial net washing and aquaculture servicing facility near to the Toft pier have been rejected by the Shetland Islands Council’s planning department.

The news has been welcomed enthusiastically by local residents who have been campaigning against the proposal while the company behind the plans, SNG Aqua Ltd, a subsidiary of Killybegs based Swan Net Gundry, expressed disappointment.

The company had hoped to create between 15 and 20 jobs in the area and had claimed to fill a gap in the local market, while the Toft community feared the industrialisation of their township.

An established local competitor, Mørenot, based in Scalloway, also opposed the development saying no new jobs would be created as local demand for net washing was already well served.

In the event, planners determined that the proposal didn’t comply with a number of local plan policies and was “in principle in the wrong place, and not appropriate to the location due to the existing residential uses within close proximity”.

In an e-mail to SNA Aqua’s agent Hunter Planning, the council’s team leader of development management, John Holden, turned down a request to extent the determination period saying that he agreed with his staff’s recommendation and added that any extension would only incur additional cost but not result in a different outcome.

“I will therefore be proceeding to make a formal determination of the application,” he wrote.

John Laurenson who has been leading the local campaign against the development said residents were relieved to hear of the planning decision.

“Everybody is delighted and relieved that common sense has prevailed,” he said.

“People here have been under a lot of pressure over recent months, and there was a lot of worry, not least over house prices.

“Hopefully the company will now consider locating the development away from a residential area and in an industrial estate where it belongs.”

Speaking on behalf of SNG Aqua, Dale Hunter of Hunter Planning said everyone was “very disappointed” with the decision, and the company would be looking at all the options available including appealing the decision.